Thursday 30 November 2017

Madhouse recipe : Apricot & cashew coconut sugar cookies

After spending far too much of my weekend marking, I decided to unwind and enjoy what was left of my Sunday afternoon by having a good baking session. It was already getting towards the end of the afternoon though so I needed something quick - a cookie recipe was definitely the way to go.

Rummaging through the cupboard, I came across a bag of coconut sugar, along with some ends of bags of dried apricots and cashews. Time to experiment. Coconut sugar is very similar to brown sugar in taste and colour - it doesn't taste of coconut at all, it tastes more of burnt sugar (in a pleasant way). The cookies had a lovely flavour from the sugar, but it did overpower the apricots and cashews, although they did add some nice crunch and chewiness.

Apricot & cashew coconut sugar cookies

ingredients :

95g softened salted butter
90g coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
1 egg
150g flour
1tsp baking powder
handful of dried apricots
handful of cashews

Cream together the sugar and butter.

Add the egg.

Then the flour and baking powder.

Roughly chop the apricots and cashews. Stir through the cookie dough.

Place dollops of the mixture on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Bake at 180° for 10 minutes. They will still be soft when they come out of the oven. Leave to cool before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

I haven't cooked with coconut sugar much but these came out really nice, in terms of flavour and texture. It gives a lovely colour too and is low GI so it's supposed to be a healthier swap for regular sugars.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up some coconut sugar, as well as ends of bags of dried apricots and cashews.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Fab festive beauty buys from Baylis & Harding (review)

Christmas time is full of great pairings - the holly and the ivy, mistletoe and wine, turkey and stuffing, ... Well, here's another one - Baylis & Harding. Just one look at their gorgeous festive offerings had me mentally ticking off most of my remaining Christmas shopping list. From beautiful packaging to lovely scents, they have it all, including affordable price tags. Here's a roundup of some of their lovely products for Christmas 2017.

Baylis & Harding’s La Maison Crème Brulee & Cocoa Luxury Gift Basket (RRP £18, currently only £12 at Ocado) makes a super stylish gift that is bound to be a favourite this Christmas. Nestling inside a beautiful lined wicker basket is a Body Cleanser & Polisher, 300ml and a Body Butter, 350ml, both fragranced with Crème Brulee & Cocoa, a deliciously indulgent, feel-good scent with warm vanilla and coca notes which is truly irresistible, whatever your age. It appeals as much to me as to Sophie (age 16) and Juliette (age 12), so will be a winner whatever the age of the recipient.

Ideal as gifts for teachers, secret Santas and stocking fillers, this duo of fantastically packaged products are chic as Chanel but cheap as chips ! The red Christmas tree-shaped box on the left contains Baylis & Harding’s Midnight Fig & Pomegranate Luxury Body Wash, with an exquisite, exotic scent of rich dark fruits, berries and pomegranates. I love the cut-away Christmas tree shape on the packaging that allows you to see through to the product inside. (RRP £8, currently £4 on Ocado or as an add-on item at amazon.) On the right is another gift idea with wow-factor - Small Bath Tub Signature Sweet Mandarin & Grapefruit, a cute miniature slipper bath, containing 50ml shower cream and 30ml body butter with a lovely invigorating Sweet Mandarin & Grapefruit fragrance. (RRP £6).

The packaging of the next gift set instantly reminded me of American popcorn carts and, while the Sweet Caramel Popcorn fragrance would be in-keeping with this line of thought, the circus animals and performers on the box and the name soon made me realise that it is supposed to be a big top. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you Beauticology Carnival Treats Perfect Partners! After all the festive over-indulgence, January is invariably the time that everyone kicks off a New Year diet, so the 300ml Candy Apple Body Wash and 250ml Sweet Caramel Popcorn Body Butter are a great, calorie-free way to indulge your sugar cravings ! (RRP £10, currently £6.99 on amazon)

The men in the family don't need to feel like they're missing out either - the Baylis & Harding Mens Sport Citrus Lime & Mint Small Wash Bag Set is the perfect size for throwing in a gym bag or packing in a weekend/overnight bag and contains a 50ml Aftershave Balm and a 100ml Hair & Body Wash, both with a refreshing, woody fragrance of lime, bergamot and mint. The distressed denim-look wash bag is really stylish and I'll be pinching it for myself if Madhouse Daddy doesn't end up using it ! (RRP £6.99)

I love the Luxury Hand Wash range, which all look snazzy, smell nice and leave my hands feeling soft. I currently have one on the go in the bathroom and in the kitchen and they're cheap enough that I don't mind sharing with the kids ! The Midnight Fig & Pomegranate Luxury Hand Wash, with added moisturiser, has had a gorgeous festive makeover just in time for Christmas. You can currently pick up a big 500ml bottle for a bargaintastic £1.50 at Superdrug (was £2.15, which is still a great price).

And last but by no means least, they have a beautiful range of Festive Scented Candle Jars with Christmas Tree Lids. We got a Winter Spruce & Berries-fragranced one in a green jar but they are available in a variety of fragrances and colours. They look magnificent, add a lovely delicate festive fragrance to your home and there's something about a candle that makes a room look cosy and inviting on a cold winter's evening. Each candle has an impressive 38 hours burning time. (RRP £10, available from Tesco and amazon.)

You can't go wrong with luxurious and wonderfully fragranced smellies as gifts - after all, everyone has to wash ! - and Baylis and Harding have come up with a range that will appeal to all ages and both sexes. I think they've outdone themselves with their funky festive packaging this year. I'd be happy spotting any of these under the tree with my name on !

for more information :

Disclosure : We received the products in order to write an honest review.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Madhouse recipe : Lamb, prune and apricot tagine

Looking through my cupboards on a recent #KitchenClearout, I spotted lots of half-used bags of dried fruit, so I have been on a mission to use them up over the past couple of weeks. This Moroccan-inspired dish was thrown together in half an hour when I got home from a busy day at work, but you could cook it in the slow cooker (or just let it simmer for longer) to let the flavours really develop. It was still pretty tasty even as a rush job though.

 Lamb, prune and apricot tagine

ingredients :

700g lamb
drizzle of olive oil
2 onions
1 clove of garlic
salt, pepper, ras el hanout
1tbsp brown sugar
dried apricots
soft prunes
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 chicken stock cube

Start off by seasoning then browning the meat on all sides while you prep the veggies. I wanted it to go nice and brown and crispy on the outside for lots of lovely flavour. Don't move it about too much - let it caramelise slowly.

In a separate pan, heat the olive oil then gently fry the onions and garlic until they go soft. Add the brown sugar and continue cooking for a few more minutes. Stir through the ras el hanout spices.

Add the prunes and dried apricots to the pan.

Add two cans of chopped tomatoes and crumble in a stock cube. Leave to simmer until it thickens.

To make it easier to eat for the kids, I chopped the meat off the bones into chunks then browned it a bit more (they like it well done but you could leave it medium-rare if you prefer.)

Add the meat to the pan, deglaze the meat pan with a little water to get all the stuck-on bits and juices and add it to the mix. Give it all a good stir and add extra salt, pepper and ras el hanout, if necessary. Serve with couscous.

Adding to this month's #KitchenClearout linky as it used up half bags of prunes and dried apricots that were cluttering up the cupboard.

Monday 27 November 2017

Children's book review : Emily Knight ... I Am Awakened - A. Bello

Back in 2013, I reviewed the first book in A. Bello's exciting fantasy series, Emily Knight I Am ... (click through for that review), which introduced us to 13-year-old Emily, a troubled teen trying to come to terms with her mother dying from cancer, her dad disappearing in search of her wayward brother Lox and the fact that she has discovered that she has inherited her father's Warrior gene and can create (but, rather worryingly, not yet control) fireballs from her bare hands. The second book, Emily Knight ... I Am Awakened, picks up more or less where the last one left off - Emily is now 14, still at the Osaki Warrior School, her father is still out looking for her brother and she is still learning to be a Warrior and live up to the expectations everyone has of the daughter of one of the big five warriors of all time, destined to save the world.

The book starts off with a flashback to a little girl called Rose, badly burned in a fire started by Warriors that killed her grandparents and left her hell-bent on revenge. Now grown-up, she has turned into Emily's nemesis, Neci (who we saw in the first book), who is promising war as soon as she locates her final lost warrior. At Osaki, special secret training sessions are underway for the offspring of the Five Warriors, in preparation for this eventuality, but everyone is hoping that Emily's father, the legendary Thomas Knight, who has already defeated Neci in the past, will come back and save the world again.

As I said in my last review, Osaki is like a cross between Mallory Towers and Hogwarts - in this book, it reminded me even more of the Harry Potter series, with friendship, loyalty and magical skills being pushed to their limits. Knowing that there is quite possibly a traitor in their midst adds even more excitement and suspense to the friends' adventures, whether learning to breathe underwater, face their fears on a mountainside or investigate a hidden ice room in the school.

Emily has grown up a lot since the first book and is much less bratty than before. The teenage hormones are in effervescence though with lingering lust-fuelled looks and kisses left, right and centre and even a few PG-rated comments, that left me feeling slightly uncomfortable. Emily and Wesley find themselves in a "will-they-won't-they?" love triangle for the entire book, despite both having teenage flings with other people.

And this leads me to my one gripe with the series. I'm still not sure what the target audience is supposed to be. The front cover looks, to me, as if it is targetting 8-12 year olds. However, some of the content - in particular the surprisingly violent scenes during the numerous Dojo matches, with punches, blood and teeth flying everywhere, the slightly too sexual comments such as "His face is like chocolate. I could lick it." and one use of the word crap - suggests that the audience is supposed to more in the 13-16 age range. Having a daughter in each of those age brackets, I know that Juliette (12) would feel ill at ease with some of the scenes and Sophie (16) would never buy a book with such a babyish front cover. The other problem is the four-year real life gap between the books for a one-year jump in the story. Readers of the first book (let's say 10-13 year olds) may well have outgrown the series by now. This isn't a major problem, as it can be read as a stand-alone novel by a whole new generation of readers, but it would be good to take the Harry Potter inspiration a step further and have the characters growing up in real time, along with the readers.

All in all, it's a fast-paced, enjoyable read, combining both magical fantasy and real life teenage concerns, that tweens and teens of both sexes would definitely enjoy. Imagine a cross between Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and don't be fooled by the childish cover.

star rating : 4/5

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hashtag Press (28 Sept. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0995780641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0995780644

RRP : £7.99

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Feeling festive yet? The Christmas Countdown review roundup

Judging by my social media feeds, there's still about a 50-50 divide between the "so many sleeps to Christmas" enthusiasts and the "bah humbug, it's far too early to be thinking about Christmas" brigade. Well, if you're still not feeling full of festive sparkle, just ponder this for a moment - this time next week, we'll be into December and in under a month, Christmas will be done and dusted for another year ! That to me says it all - the countdown to Christmas has well and truly begun ! We've been receiving some lovely goodies lately to help us get in the Christmas spirit.

First of all, if you have kids, don't forget the obligatory advent calendar. When I was a kid, we were happy enough to open the window and just have a picture, but these days, it's chocolates all the way. Wilko have a lovely calorie-free alternative though, which is sure to be a massive hit with the children - the Wilko Blox advent calendar, with festive brick building fun behind every door.

It includes everything you need to build a festive scene with elves, a train, a snowman, a reindeer and sleigh, Father Christmas and lots more. It's much more exciting than knowing in advance that you're going to get the same old chocolate every day, because there could be anything hiding behind each door. 

The fun doesn't stop there because the advent calendar even includes a Santa's workshop play scene for you to display or play with your creations. Even better news,  Blox construction kits have been designed to work together with the leading brand, so it will make a lovely addition to an existing collection. This is one advent calendar which will have lasting appeal well beyond Christmas Eve. I thought it was a bargain for £8 but the price has now been slashed even further to £6. Available at Wilko.

Qualatex balloons are ideal as Christmas stocking fillers, party accessories or just a fabulous addition to your Christmas decorations. Let one of Santa’s Elves spread joy and light up hearts this festive season with Elf Buddy (RRP £19.99), a quirky design made from latex and foil balloons that stands about 1 metre high and is certain to bring Christmas cheer to all. For a perfect table centrepiece that’s colourful, fun and yet easy to talk around, let Santa himself sprinkle some magic with this neat “Ho Ho Ho!” balloon bouquet (RRP £17.99). With the bouquet floating neatly in shape for several days, it’s sure to be a big hit this Christmas. For stockists visit or call 0800 28 12 15.


If you're on the hunt for some lovely personalised Christmas gifts, look no further than Babyblooms, the UK’s top online baby gift company, which has an exclusive range of personalised and non-personalised items to make a baby’s first Christmas a truly memorable occasion. Many of the gifts would appeal to recipients of all ages though, including this gorgeous Personalised Christmas Stocking and Personalised Bertie Bear set (RRP £50). The beautiful Christmas stocking, personalised with stylish embroidery, is handmade in the UK from a luxurious velvet fabric, and Bertie is proudly wearing his matching personalised jumper for extra special cuddles, so you can have the perfect Christmas Eve bedtime set up, whatever your age ! Other wonderful gift ideas include a Personalised Christmas Eve Box with ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas book and Personalised Christmas Eve Plate (RRP £49.99), a Bertie Bear Christmas Bathrobe Set (RRP £50), Baby's 'My First Christmas' Cracker Bib (RRP £10.00) and New Baby Skincare Cracker (RRP £15.00). I also have a fantastic giveaway running at the moment right here on my blog where you can win a gorgeous Christmas morning breakfast set, comprising a bone chine plate, bowl, mug and egg cup, as well as a personalised Bertie Bear (RRP £50).


If you're looking for some silly fun to help notch up the excitement levels with the kids, The Smelly Sprout Sticker Activity Book by Allan Plenderleith (RRP £4.99) is just the ticket.

It's packed full of festive fun, including colouring pages, spot the differences, mazes, drawing challenges and sticker fun, as well as a tasty recipe to recreate.

Designed for children aged 4+, it would make a lovely stocking filler or could be handy on Christmas Eve to help while away the time until it's bedtime and the kids can excitedly hang their stockings up and try not to fall asleep all night ! Available at amazon and all good bookstores.

If you want a festive challenge that the whole family can get involved in, how about the What If? Christmas Day puzzle from Ravensburger, aimed at adults and children aged 12+. I always find that Boxing Day is a bit of a dead day - everyone is lapsing into a turkey/mince pie coma, the kids' new toys are already starting to lose their novelty value and the festive TV is all getting a bit samey. Bring out a puzzle and you'll be amazed to see everyone drifting over to the table and joining in !

The What If? puzzles have a unique twist. The picture on the front of the box, in this case the perfect Christmas Day that we all dream of, is not the picture that the puzzle represents. The puzzle actually shows the kind of Christmas that many of us actually end up experiencing, so it's an added challenge and makes it even more exciting as you're not sure what will appear until you start putting it together piece by piece ! 

Finally, if you're planning on puckering up under the Christmas mistletoe - or, the less romantic version, if the cold weather is playing havoc with your lips - keep the dreaded chapped lips at bay with these lovely Jelly Belly branded lip balms, including tasty Berry Blue, Tutti Frutti and Very Cherry scents. The great thing is, they're zero calories and you don't get to say that very often during Christmas and New Year ! Available for £3 at Tesco stores, they're perfect as stocking fillers or secret Santa gifts, or just a little feelgood treat for yourself to keep in your pocket and lift your spirits when you're standing at the bus stop on a bitterly cold day feeling miserable !

Go on, admit it - that must have made you feel a little bit festive, surely ? Ho ho ho !

Disclosure : We received the products in order to write an honest review.

Sunday 26 November 2017

The November Degustabox review : it's Chriiiiistmas !

As Degustabox deliveries always arrive at the very end of the month, this is the last Degustabox before Christmas. Obviously, this one has a bit of a festive theme going on, with lots of nibbles and treats to see us through the holiday season.

There were lots of oohs and aahs when we started unpacking the box, and not just from the kids ! Without delay, here is what was nestling inside the November Degustabox :

Ryvita Rye Cakes (£1.39) - Made with popped wholegrain rye, Ryvita Multigrain Rye Cakes are naturally high in fibre and low in fat, making them a wholesome snack to enjoy on their own or with your choice of sweet or savoury toppings. I must admit, I'm not a huge fan - they're too healthy for me ! - but they might tempt me more in January after all the festive over-indulgence.

Weetabix Additions Apple & Raisin (£2.99) - I've just finished the box of Weetabix Additions Coconut & Raisin from a previous Degustabox, so I'm looking forward to munching on these now. I love the fact that, unlike when I eat plain Weetabix, I don't need to add any sugar to these ones. Just add milk, leave to soak then tuck in for a filling and healthy breakfast, packed with wholegrain goodness, apple, raisins and cinnamon.

Kallo organic stock pots (£1.80) - Made with organic, natural and high quality ingredients and available in three varieties - chicken, beef or vegetable - these stocks pots are perfect for flinging into soups, stews and sauces for extra flavour. They'd be ideal in soups, pies and curries for using up the leftover Christmas turkey.

Rio Mare Italian Tuna (£3) - A high quality tuna in olive oil - delicious in salads or sandwiches.

Alo Refresh Cucumber & Cantaloupe Aloe Vera drink (£1.99) - I used to be nervous of aloe vera drinks because of the slightly strange texture, but after a holiday in Lanzarote a couple of years ago, I came to really like them. Aloe vera is supposed to be a superfood, packed with nutrients, and the cantaloupe and cucumber add a cleansing, refreshing flavour.

 Filippo Berio Fennel & Garlic Crostini (£1.99) - Inspired by classic Italian flavours, these crostini are made from freshly baked bread, mixed with aromatic fennel seeds and a hint of garlic, lightly sprinkled with sea salt and drizzled with Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Because they're baked, not fried, they are 30% lower in fat than traditional crisps. Very tasty, straight from the pack or with dips.

Cadbury Picnic Bites (£1.99) - Nobbly nibbles of crispy wafer, chewy caramel, crunchy peanut and juicy raisins, all wrapped up in Cadbury milk chocolate. What's not to like?! Yum !

Jelly Bean Company Super Sours (£1.79) - I LOVE Jelly Beans so I knew these would be a big hit before I'd even opened the packet. There are nine flavours, all made with natural flavours and colours, and they're also gelatine free, gluten free and nut free, so Coeliacs and vegetarians can enjoy them too.

English Provender Caramelised Red Onion Chutney (£1.99) - When is a boring turkey sandwich not a boring turkey sandwich? When you've added a nice dollop of sweet, sticky red onion chutney ! The perfect accompaniment to ploughman type salads and sandwiches for using up the festive leftovers.

Dalston's Fizzy Apple (£1.89) - The Nightingale family at Gibbet Oak farm in Kent have been growing apples for a long time and now they're helping out with their know-how (and apples) to create this fruity, fizzy soda, made with Jonagold, Idared and Bramley apples. If you want an alcohol-free festive tipple that is a bit more exciting than coke, this would be a lovely option for designated drivers or pregnant and nursing mums.

Propercorn Perfectly Sweet Popcorn (89p) - Hand-popped corn, sprinkled with unrefined Fairtrade sugar for a perfectly sweet, caramelised flavour. Very nice.

Planters Fruity Chocolate Crunch (£2) - You can't have Christmas and New Year celebrations without nibbles and Planters have launched this new variety, which is a mixture of crunchy peanuts, juicy cranberries and creamy milk chocolate buttons. I wasn't sure the three flavours would work well together but it's a match made in heaven. Great as nibbles but this would also work well in cookies and muffins.

Taylors of Harrogate Coffee (£4.49) - Top quality single origin coffee to explore the flavours of the world's greatest growing regions - we got Cacao Superior Colombia but other Degustaboxers got Rare Blossom Ethiopia. I'm not a coffee drinker but Madhouse Daddy said it has a lovely rich flavour.

Everything in this box will get eaten, and they are all things (except the rye cakes) that we would have bought and will quite probably buy again. It's lovely to have a selection of nibbles to enjoy over Christmas and New Year, as well as some products that will be handy for using up the festive leftovers.

A subscription to Degustabox costs £12.99 per month including delivery, with each box having a value of much more than that, but the great news is, I have a discount coupon code for you which gives you a whopping £7 off the price of your first box, so you'll get it for just £5.99 - just enter code 0BS6T at the checkout.

for more information :

Also now on Instagram @DegustaboxUK

Disclosure : We received the box in order to write an honest review. As a Degustabox blogger, I receive all of the products that go into the monthly boxes, but subscribers may not get exactly the same selection.

Giveaway #659 : Win a bottle of Surf Perfect Black - closed - winners Ashleigh Allan, Monika Bascombe

Diaries at the ready ! The invites will soon be coming in thick and fast for Christmas and New Year parties so it's time to get your little black dresses out of the wardrobe. Maybe this is why Surf have just unveiled their latest innovation, Surf Perfect Black - a specially designed laundry formula that keeps your dark clothes looking newer for longer, combatting the dreaded fade. Fifty shades of grey is old news - it's time to get back to black !

With the crisp Autumn air upon us, it’s time to bring on the wool sweaters, cosy scarves and that favourite wardrobe staple – your black denims. Fear of fading can now be a thing of the past, and no matter how worn your black jeans may be, they will still look new enough to wear with your favourite Autumn trends. Your sparkle never fades, your clothes shouldn’t either !

Surf Perfect Black, with its wonderfully exotic midnight orchid & lily fragrance, will ensure your laundry smells fantastic and is available in washing liquid and washing capsules. I love the way it makes the whole house smell lovely when you're doing the laundry too - it certainly stops it being such a chore !

Available at Tesco, Sainsbury's and ASDA, RRP £5.50

I have a bottle of Surf Perfect Black to give away to two lucky Madhouse Family Reviews readers (one bottle per winner). Fill in your entries via the Rafflecopter widget below.

UK only. Closing date : 10/12/17

T & C's : Entries close at midnight on the closing date. Winners will be selected with a random number generator and announced on facebook and in the giveaway post subject line. Please note, you will be contacted by email and/or twitter and if I haven't heard from you after 28 days, I'll have to pick another winner. Prizes will be sent out by the companies or their PR directly to winners. Madhouse Family Reviews cannot be held responsible for any prizes that go astray ! Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. The winners' personal contact information will be passed on to the PR / Brand responsible and used only for delivery of their prize. 

Saturday 25 November 2017

Book review : Otherworld - Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller

When a review copy of Otherworld by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller landed on my doormat, my first thought was how pretty the cover design is - it almost sucks you in, dragging your eyes to the tree on the horizon, making you want to get past the bars standing between you and the mysterious, enchanting landscape beyond. My second thought was, why is there an energy bar and an energising green tea drink along with the book? As I started reading, it all made perfect sense though - in the book, Otherworld is an augmented reality video game experience, so realistic and enjoyable that people become so addicted to it, they forget to take time out from the game for real-life essentials like going to the toilet or eating and drinking. As the blurb on the back of the book says, "There are no screens. There are no controls. You don't just see and hear it - you taste, smell and touch it too. In this new reality, there are no rules to follow, no laws to break. You can live your best life. Indulge your every desire. The company welcomes you to OTHERWORLD. Are you ready to play?".

Back in the mists of time (before I had kids), when you had to buy video games on disks to use on a computer, and laptops, tablets and smartphones didn't exist, I used to love playing a video game called Neverwinter Nights. You could become whoever you wanted - a mighty warrior, a sneaky thief, a magical enchantress, ... - and, even better, you could team up with people you knew in real life or online and interact with them, which was pretty mindblowing back then. I could therefore understand the excitement the central character Simon feels when a new early-access, hugely improved virtual reality version of his favourite game, Otherworld, is released. He can't resist charging thousands of dollars to his mum's business account to procure the top-of-the-range gaming equipment required to play the game.

Otherworld (both the book and the game) is about much more than a simple gaming experience though. When a group of high school kids (including Simon's best friend Kat) are involved in an accident and end up in hospital in a vegetative state known as locked-in syndrome, Simon discovers that another version of the game is being developed as a way to enable paralysed or comatose patients to live out a fulfilling alternative life in a virtual reality world. These players require no headset to play - they have a disc attached to their scalp which interacts directly with the brain to appeal to all five senses (unlike the headset gamers, who can only see and hear in the game). There is one other major difference - whereas being killed in the game just takes you back to the start if you're a headset player, the same may not be true of the disc gamers. Despite the risks, Simon manages to get a disc of his own and sets off to find Kat, help her battle through the virtual-reality realms and find a way back to the real world. On the way, they discover real-life danger, corruption and greed, with the ruthless game developers willing to arrange a few accidents to come up with the guinea pigs required to beta-test the game and find its (potentially deadly) bugs.

When I started reading the synopsis of the book, I wasn't sure it would appeal to me - I'm well out of the target age range of the hip young things interested in video games and virtual reality - but the book offers so much more than that. It's a tale of adventure and friendship, with conspiracy theories and a dash of romance thrown in for good measure. While undoubtedly classed as young adult fiction, you definitely don't have to still be in your teens to enjoy it. While I managed to remember to eat and go to the toilet, I did become so immersed in Otherworld that I read well beyond my bedtime and almost missed my bus stop on a couple of occasions !

This is the first in a series and there are some big loose ends left hanging that promise great things in the sequels. If you want to buy a book for a teen this Christmas, this will definitely appeal - but I recommend you read it yourself first before wrapping it up and putting it under the tree !

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £12.99

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Rock the Boat (31 Oct. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1786073692
  • ISBN-13: 978-1786073693

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Friday 24 November 2017

What's Cooking at The Madhouse? menu plan 24/11

Brrr it's still cold and it seems to be raining non stop (that half-hearted drizzle that leaves you feeling damp all day) so I definitely need some more winter warmers on this week's menu plan.


lunch - Time for the traditional KFC/Burger King/McDonald's option

dinner - split pea & bacon soup


lunch - roast dinner, probably chicken

dinner - leftovers from lunch (possibly made into soup) or fridge grazing


 lunch - beefburgers, ratatouille & rice or pasta

dinner - Moroccan lamb tagine with couscous


dinner Caribbean chicken and pumpkin curry


lunch - Vietnamese pork with noodles & veg

dinner - escudella barrejada (pasta soup)


dinner - leftovers - it's my busy day and there should be plenty of odds and ends in the fridge


 dinner - Tom Kha Gai soup (chicken, lemongrass, ginger ...)

***Click on my Menu Plans tag to see all my other weekly menu plan blogposts.***

Join in with the weekly meal plan bloghop !

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...